02/03/2009 12:00AM

Turf Paradise boosts purses 5%

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Turf Paradise in Phoenix will raise purses 5 percent across the board beginning Friday under an agreement with horsemen to reduce a significant purse underpayment, officials for the racetrack and horsemen said Tuesday.

The purse account at the track has been taking in more than it has been paying out because of higher-than-expected wagering on the track's races since the meet opened last October, officials said. Tom Metzen, executive director of the Arizona Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, estimated that the underpayment was approximately $985,000, while Eugene Joyce, the track's general manager, estimated the size of the underpayment at approximately $800,000.

"Everything's based on projections, and when we started the meet, the economy was going down," Joyce said. "You hate to cut purses in the middle of the meet, so we were pretty conservative. We've been lucky enough to have a good meet so far."

Metzen said: "The handle has been better than we expected. We started out a little lower than we wanted, but now we can afford to raise purses."